Welcome to St. James Cathedral on this joy filled day as we are about to ordain Derek Saldanha, our brother, to the priesthood. I extend a very special welcome to your parents, Agnelo and Lavita, your brother David, family and friends who join us here today from Melbourne to Cameroon. The priests and deacons of the Diocese of Orlando and visiting priests from other Dioceses; welcome. Classmates of Derek who have been ordained and those who will be ordained in the future; welcome. Welcome all seminarians and young people, you are about to witness this beautiful Rite of Ordination. I hope and pray it is a source of inspiration for you in your vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Those who will be joining us from other parts of the Diocese and the world; especially from India; we welcome you on the internet by way of live stream.
I welcome the faculty and staff of St. John Vianney and St. Vincent de Paul Seminaries who formed you and educated you. I am grateful to your formators, Father Jorge Torres, your vocations director, who accompanied and guided you over the years. Father Miguel Gonzalez helped in your discernment to follow Christ. Father Josh Swallows accompanied you during this last year.
I address your parents who have given you life and your faith. Derek said that faith played a very important role in the life of his family. You prayed the rosary together. Derek said his family helped him discern your call to the priesthood. For this we are grateful.
Derek, your favorite saint, St. Francis Xavier evangelized the land of your birth, India. You are about to follow in his footsteps, you too will be called to evangelize. You are the first priest to be ordained from India in the Diocese of Orlando. You will join a group of your brother priests from many different countries who serve in the Diocese of Orlando. I am blessed and grateful to all the priests who serve all people in the Orlando Diocese.
The Diocese of Orlando’s Indian communities welcome you with great joy as the first among them to be ordained a priest. St. Francis Xavier’s life changed when the Lord touched him. Isaiah the prophet tells us in the first reading, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (Is 61:1). You, Derek, are about to be anointed with the Spirit of the Lord and your life too will be changed. You will be called “to bring glad tidings to the lowly, heal the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Is. 61:1).
St. Francis Xavier discerned his vocation while at university in Paris. Derek, you discerned your vocation at Franciscan University. Your reflecting on the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist; realizing it was the consecration of God through the words and hands of the priest that we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We also receive God’s merciful grace through the words and blessings of the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is in the Sacraments that we encounter Christ, in and through the priests that we receive these precious gifts.
St. Francis Xavier brought the Gospel to India, especially to the state of Goa. Derek, you come from a long and rich missionary tradition. In the Letter to the Hebrews you are reminded to be a humble representative of the people before God by “offering gifts and sacrifices for sins and to deal patiently with the people” (Heb 1:2) because you yourself are a sinner. “The priest is not his own, but the servant of Jesus Christ.” Christ is the treasure you carry within and it is He who is the most important treasure.” The words to the hymn, “Earthen Vessels” by Father John Foley, S.J., “Behold the treasure not made of gold, in earthen vessels, wealth untold, one treasure only, the Lord the Christ in earthen vessels,” – Derek, you are that earthen vessel who holds the treasure.
Derek you are to preach, to teach and live the Gospel, sanctifying the people with the Sacraments. You place your life at God’s disposal; through a life of chastity and obedience. The rite of Ordination “encourages you to be more intentional about your life.” I pray that your Ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ brings fulfillment and joy into your life.
The ritual of calling you by name brings to mind the words of Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you. … .I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” (Jer 1:5). Derek, you were chosen by God and the people of God affirmed you by their applause. Your simple answer, “Present”, is reflected in the words of Scripture, “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.” The laying on of hands by the bishop and priests: you as a sacred person committed to the service to God. The Book of the Gospels was placed in your hands at your Ordination to the Diaconate, dedicating your life to preaching and faithfully teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The anointing of your hands with sacred Chrism blesses you as an anointed one like the priests, prophets and kings of old. The placing of the sacred vessels in your hands entrusts you with the precious gift of consecrating the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We hear not even the angels in heaven have been given such power.
Pope Francis said in an address to priests, “The Word of God requires witness, teachers who are faithful to the truth and worthy witnesses of the Gospel. …The witness incarnates what is taught, makes it tangible, makes its call, and leaves no one indifferent. The witness adds to the truth the joy of the Gospel, aware of being loved by God and the object of His infinite mercy.”
Derek you are that witness and teacher. You said, “I look forward to journeying with the people, helping them in their own relationship with God that they may come to discover Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In doing so that they may receive the peace and joy that comes from Him alone.”
Father Cantalamesa said in a retreat to the bishops of the USA that in your prayers you are to ask the Holy Spirit for help; “we don’t speak of the Holy Spirit, but we speak to the Holy Spirit.” He also pointed out the need to rethink the relationship between prayer and action. “We must pray first and then do what emerges from our prayer.” Don’t neglect your life of prayer. Daily prayer with the Holy Spirit will direct and guide your ministry.
Derek, praying to and with the Holy Spirit must become the focal point of your daily life of prayer. As a priest of Jesus Christ, you can bring God’s glory and power into the lives of the people, but only through a life of prayer.
The parish community of Holy Name of Jesus played an important role in your vocation; the priests and the people inspired you. Their prayers and support gave you the opportunity to discern your vocation and for this we are eternally grateful. You now will be able to do likewise – to inspire and encourage others to seek God’s will in their life’s vocation. Allow them to see priesthood, religious life or family life as a calling and a gift from God.
Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Derek, you told me this is your favorite Scripture passage. You said, “Whenever my life has been centered around Him, I have been able to do whatever He asks of me.”
Derek, just like St. Francis Xavier, the Lord asks you; “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20).
In a recent interview you said, “I hope to preach the word of God with zeal, with meaning, giving it my everything.” With God’s grace, it will be so.
Ordination to the Priesthood, Deacon Derek Saldanha
St. James Cathedral, Orlando
May 25, 2019